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America's Food Insecurity Is An Embarrassment

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 14.5 percent of Americans felt "food insecure." This means that, at some point during the year, 14.5 percent felt as though they didn't have the means to eat.

In 2013, 14.3 percent felt that way. While technically lower than the previous year, the difference is so small that even the USDA admits it's not a statistical difference. As such, you cannot say the issue of food security is "getting better." But some people are looking at the "virtually unchanged" aspect of the study to try to claim that it's not getting worse.

They're wrong.

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First, it's important to distinguish the difference between food insecurity and starvation. The latter is a statistic that's measured after the fact, based on hard numbers like deaths and caloric intake. The former has to do with the feelings of the person in terms of how easy they find obtaining food. That discrepancy is what right-wingers are latching onto as evidence it's just not that bad out there:

In other words, the proof that someone is not hungry is that they are consuming calories. However, what that argument doesn't take into consideration is that all calories are not created equal.

Here's how the USDA defines food insecurity:

The 14 percent who claim to be food insecure? They could still get food, if they needed to. But they'd have to do so in ways that are not "socially acceptable," such as stealing from a grocery store, or perhaps waiting in line at a food kitchen. Or maybe it's surviving on nothing but chips and sodas, a diet that leads to obesity. But conservatives try to ignore that pesky truth.

The reason they want to "debunk" American hunger is obvious. Higher statistics of poverty leads to more nationalized programs to end hunger, everything the right side of the aisle stands in opposition to. So, they try to pretend everything's fine by comparing what's happening in America to what's happening in developing countries. It's not nearly as bad as that, so what is everyone complaining about?

Instead, to get a more accurate assessment, we need to compare America to other "advanced countries." And when we do, America doesn't look so hot.

In 2012, despite having the highest GDP per capita (that is, the highest wealth per person) in the world, we still had a higher percentage of citizens who could not afford food than in Britain, China, and Australia. We're way worse off than Germany, and just as bad as Greece and South Korea. If we truly believe we're a world power that's moving in an upward direction, the first duty is to feed your citizens. To that goal, we are failing.

Historian and social activist Howard Zinn believed history was like a train. The actions of the world are going in a particular direction, and as participants of the world, every person has a choice. They can stay on the train and take it to the destination, or they can jump off and go somewhere else. But simply not making a decision isn't a valid option. Or, as he way more eloquently put it, "You can't be neutral on a moving train."

Even though America is not getting statistically worse in terms of food insecurity, the fact that another year has passed without progress means we are failing. That's unacceptable and, as an American, simply embarrassing.

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